View of Glastonbury Abbey from the former location of the North transept in East direction to the choir.

Richard Whiting (died 15 November 1539) was an English clergyman and the last Abbot of Glastonbury. He presided over Glastonbury Abbey at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII of England, and was executed for unclear reasons in 1539. He is considered a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church, which beatified him on 13 May 1895.


Whiting graduated as M.A. from Cambridge University in 1483. He was ordained deacon in 1500 and priest in 1501.[1] After the death of the previous abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Beere, in February 1525, the community decided to elect his successor per formam compromissi, which elevates the selection to a higher ranking personage - in this case Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Wolsey obtained King Henry's permission to act and chose Richard Whiting. The first ten years of Whiting's rule were prosperous and peaceful. He was a sober and caring spiritual leader and a good manager of the abbey's day-to-day life. During the period of the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry sent Richard Layton to examine Whiting and the inhabitants of the abbey. He found all in good order, but suspended the abbot's jurisdiction over the town of Glastonbury. Small "injunctions" were given to him about the management of the abbey property. A number of times over the next few years, Whiting was told the abbey was safe from dissolution. On 19th of September 1533 three of Cromwell's inspectors arrived at the abbey to help find faults.


By January 1539, Glastonbury was the only monastery left in Somerset, and on 19 September of that year the royal commissioners, Layton, Richard Pollard and Thomas Moyle, arrived there without warning on the orders of Thomas Cromwell. Whiting was sent up to the Tower of London that Cromwell might examine him for himself, but the precise charge on which he was arrested, and subsequently executed, remains uncertain though his case is usually referred to as one of treason. Cromwell clearly acted as judge and jury: in his manuscript, "Remembrances" are the entries:

Item, Certayn persons to be sent to the Tower for the further examenacyon of the Abbot, of Glaston… Item. The Abbot, of Glaston to (be) tryed at Glaston and also executyd there with his complycys… Item. Councillors to give evidence against the Abbot of Glaston, Rich. Pollard, Lewis Forstew (Forstell), Thos. Moyle.

As a member of the House of Lords, Whiting should have been attainted by an Act of Parliament passed for the purpose, but his execution was an accomplished fact, before Parliament even met. Whiting was sent back to Glastonbury with Pollard and reached Wells on 14 November. Here some sort of trial apparently took place, and the next day, Saturday, 15 November, he was taken to Glastonbury with two of his monks, John Thorne and Roger James, where all three were fastened upon hurdles and dragged by horses to the top of Glastonbury Tor which overlooks the town. Here they were hanged, drawn and quartered, with Whiting's head being fastened over the gate of the now deserted abbey and his limbs exposed at Wells, Bath, Ilchester and Bridgwater. Richard Whiting was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church on 13 May 1895.

Whiting was the subject of the novel The Last Abbot of Glastonbury, by A. D. Clarke, published in 1883.

When Frederick Bligh Bond excavated Glastonbury Abbey, he removed bones that he believed belonged to Richard Whiting.[2]

See also


  1. Richard Whiting (Abbot) in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958. He has sometimes been identified with a John Whiting ordained Doctor of Divinity in 1505.
  2. Cousins, J.F. (2007). "Remember Richard Whiting". Retrieved 2009-08-18. 


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